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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle


Take It Or Leave It Selling

By and large the retail shopping experience that I have experienced across the region can be characterized as "take it or leave it".

Companies seem to be staffed up to the hilt with people who just could not care less whether or not the customer makes a purchase. In fact, their lives are easier when the customer walks out and doesn't bother them.

This attitude, which pervades non-tourist Caribbean countries, costs company owners a LOT of money each year, as they wonder why it is that their sales are falling and their traffic is dwindling.

I believe that the way to impact this attitude on a large scale is to:
  1. use psychometric testing to weed out the wrong people
  2. train them extensively
  3. role model the level of service desired
  4. continue to reinforce, coach and train
  5. consolidate jobs, and pay the better staff more
Part of the training I would provide is what I call "face and body management". I would use video-taped feedback to help employees see what they look like when they are serving customers. They might need to learn how to project an air of commitment and attentiveness -- something that contrasts with the air of boredom and "I don't care" that they might have learned in school.

I get the distinct impression that our front-line service personnel just do not know what they look like when they are attempting to provide service to others, and many would be appalled if they were to receive objective feedback in the form of a taped interaction.

Many of them seem to bring juvenile, teenage behaviours to the workplace, and in the absence of role models, it becomes the norm. Perhaps was fashionable when they re 15, but in the workplace it is ineffective and leads to customers feeling that the employees don't care before the first words are exchanged.

I compare it to body odour.

Someone has to tell a teen to wear deodorant for the first time, because the chances are good that they are unable to smell themselves. In like manner, unless they are helped to see what they are doing physically, they are unable to change what their bodies and faces are doing.



  • Firstly, I must say that I am quite happy that I stumbled upon this blog. I anxiously await future posts and will be actively reading through the blog archive.

    I have to agree with your thoughts on this topic. I need to emphasize certain points however. Weeding out the wrong candidates is definitely a must because all the training in the world would not prompt an employee who is not customer service oriented to assist a potential customer. Unfortunately for a vast majority of the Caribbean this is not an option. Many businesses taking this route will be left with closed doors. It is difficult for them to attract employees much less the right employees. I have witnessed quite a few instances where customer complaints have resulted in a mere slap on the wrist or no consequence at all to the employee, all because business owners need these employees to keep their doors open. I believe that it would take an instance of outright theft for them to let an employee go.

    Role models start at the head of any company. Owners cannot expect their employees to take an active interest in their customers if they (the business owners) do not take an interest in their employees. Many frontline employees reflect the attitude of their managers and the culture of the business. One only need to take a look at a few of the successful customer service models to understand what I am saying here. Disney, Ritz Carlton, Starbucks to some extent, what was the business built upon?

    Too often business owners in the Caribbean do not reflect the attitude that they want their employees to portray. Many treat their staff with disdain, mistrust and so they reap the benefits of their deeds. Not to say that the employees are not a fault, many refuse to utilize the training given seeing the current job as a stepping stone and so they are not required to give their all.

    This topic has been a burning issue for me and I have found that maybe there can be some change but it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of time, but one day it will come. Maybe I am just too much of an optimist!!!!

    By Anonymous Crystal Redhead-Gould, at 10/16/2007  

  • Crystal,

    Good points indeed.

    Take the case of Barbados and especially Trinidad... people actually do have choices.

    I am going to think about the points you have raised here some more, as I think there is a way to motivate people to great service, rather than to punish them into it...

    Thanks! (and pls stick around)

    By Blogger fwade, at 10/17/2007  

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